Day: June 21, 2012

Thursday, 21 June 2012

10:01 – Monday, I got an order for a chemistry kit and a biology kit from a woman in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. That’s by no means the first order I’ve gotten from Canada–not to mention a hundred or more serious queries–and I did what I always do: sent email expressing regrets that we can’t ship to Canada and refunded the money.

But I’m getting really tired of disappointing Canadian homeschoolers, so I’ve been trying since then to figure out how to get kits shipped to Canada. Here’s the message I sent to her this morning.

Hi, Marika

Well, I’ve spent about 12 hours looking into shipping to Canada, and here’s what I’ve determined.

1. Both FedEx and UPS say that they’ll ship our kits to Canadian addresses. That’s the good news. The bad news is that it would be extremely costly to do so. Just as one example, FedEx will pay the Canadian authorities any sales tax due, but will then charge you that amount of tax plus an $88 brokerage fee. That’s not including the actual shipping charges, which aren’t cheap. Geez.

The worse news is that neither I nor you would actually know how much it costs ahead of time. For example, if FedEx attempts to deliver and you’re not home to sign for the package, they’ll make redelivery attempts, charging you (IIRC) $16 for each attempt. Unbelievable, but essentially UPS and FedEx expect us to write them what amounts to a blank check, with them telling us after the package is delivered how much it ended up costing. That’s obviously unacceptable for either of us.

2. Right now, we ship kits to US addresses using USPS Priority Mail flat-rate and regional-rate boxes. The USPS will also deliver the Priority Mail large flat-rate box (which is big enough to contain one kit) to any Canadian address. That would end up costing you $40 additional, i.e. $200 total for the CK01A chemistry kit and $210 for the BK01 biology kit.

The issue is that the kits contain hazardous materials. We ship to US addresses under the 49 CFR 173.4 small quantity exemption, which redefines small amounts (less than 30 mL or 30 g) of hazardous materials as non-hazardous if they are packed according to very specific requirements. But 173.4 is a US-only exemption.

I talked in great detail with a USPS support representative. She told me that there shouldn’t be any problem shipping the kits to Canada, but obviously she can’t speak for Canada Post. The USPS has a page for Canada that lists prohibitions and restrictions

and it appears to me (and to the USPS support rep) that our kits qualify for shipping to Canada. I tried calling Canada Post and ended up bouncing around their system for a while. The most I was able to get was “it should be okay”.

So, I guess the upshot is that we can ship you these kits with no problem as far as the USPS is concerned. However, what happens at the border with the Canadian postal/customs/sales tax authorities is completely outside our control. I asked the USPS support rep how this would work, and she said that I can just ship the box normally with a postage label with your address on it. Six to 10 days later, Canada post should deliver it and present you with a bill for any customs duties or sales tax due.

This whole thing makes me nervous and I certainly understand if it makes you nervous too. If you want to give it a shot, I suggest ordering just one kit to start with. We’ll run a postage label and customs form, stick them on the box, and ship it. If you want to proceed this way, let me know and I’ll figure out how to arrange payment.

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